Florida hip-hop artist Denzel Curry is arguably one of the most tightly skilled MC’s in the rap game today. From his earlier work, such as the high-energy “Nostalgic 64” and “Imperial,” to a double EP he showed solid promise as a rapper. Then, on his last two albums, the artistic and boldly critical “Ta13oo” and the gritty “ZUU”, he showed impeccable songwriting, lyricism and earned competitive placement amongst even the best of his peers quite handedly.
Kenny Beats is a producer from Connecticut. He has earned his laurels as well, though in his case from producing tracks for a multitude of rappers including Vince Staples, 03 Greedo, Freddie Gibbs and many more. Beats is a highly-capable sonic craftsman and when your favorite rapper announces that he or she is doing a project with this talented musician, it is surely reason to rejoice.
On “Unlocked,” these two strong and readily-equipped masters of their crafts come together to release a bit of chaos while doing it in a robust, powerful way. Denzel Curry does not disappoint here. He is aggressive but clean over these beats and his delivery brings out the best in them. There are moments on some tracks where he channels the energy and vocal inflections of other rappers, such as “DIET_”, where DMX comes to mind. The prominent voice and personality channeled by Curry on this project, however, is all his own. From bar to bar across this EP, Curry establishes dominance over every beat and flow in a manner not that fans should surely find to be familiar.
Kenny Beats tends to hit the mark on this project as well. Pounding drums are countered by sounds reminiscent of gloves striking a punching bag and an explosive timer dropping in digits on “Take_it_Back_v2”. The instrumental on “Cosmic’.m4a” features an atmospheric and somewhat dirty yet alluring series of deep bass hits going off under the cover of what sounds like a sort of dystopian-esque synth. Meanwhile, Curry is in the zone right away as he spits,
“Drip-hop, born from the crack pot
This is for the infants, the haves and the have-nots
Meet inside the trap spot so you can be a (astronaut)
This will be the biggest leap that you ever hop”
These are the general vibes of “Unlocked,” an explosive rapper dropping hard-hitting bars with a hard to ignore delivery and flow over well-laid, interesting beats.
Weaknesses are something this project is low on, but there are a few discrepancies one could reasonably put forward. For one, the whole thing moves just a bit too fast. Not that it is particularly difficult to follow, but rather that its hyper-speed pace leaves a bit to be desired from some of the otherwise finer points, both lyrically and instrumentally.
A second gripe is the overuse of voice pitching across this project. While this trick is effective at times, particularly when it comes at least to some extent out of the blue, it can become a bit contrived and at some points is slightly annoying. In many ways, Curry’s natural varieties of vocal tones are much more interesting and thematically contributive.
Additionally, while Denzel Curry certainly has plenty to say, this is not the most well-rounded or directed project in terms of record wide-substance. Nonetheless, a project like this, one built up with a strong, in your face thematic structure built around a heavy-hitting spitter, as Curry certainly is on these tracks (to say the least), is not necessarily in need of more in the way of specifically concocted and organized content. For some projects like this one are more designed to serve as pieces of fun, highly-enjoyable adrenaline boosts in the form of rapid raps and sweet beats.
“Unlocked” is a blast. It is a highly-enjoyable snapshot of an otherworldly dimension traversed by the superbly-skilled rapper Denzel Curry and the fantastic Kenny Beats. This EP delivers loads of strong bars and beats alike and is most definitely worth the listen.